The new process is claimed to be 'the only ecologically sound and commercially viable alternative to manage and eliminate these toxic residues,' according to the company.
In 2011, alumina producers generated over 100Mt of 'red mud' but only about 5% was re-used. The rest is stored in ponds and reservoirs and poses 'significant environmental risks'.
When a retaining dyke in Hungary ruptured in October 2010, a flood of the toxic 'red mud' escaped causing an ecological disaster. Other nations, such as India, China, Canada and Brazil, have all experienced problems with red mud spills and, with the problem so serious, many countries now oppose the development of new mining and production facilities.
Orbite's process converts red mud into a dry, inert and environmentally neutral residue that is less than 90% the volume of its original state. The process can reclaim high value products from the red mud, such as alumina (which can make up to 25% of red mud) but also ultra pure hematite and magnesium oxide. Hematite gives 'red mud' its red colour.
The plan now is for Orbite to license its technology to producers interested in reducing their environmental footprint and their risk of contamination. As Orbite points out, it's all about 'reducing operating costs and growing their revenues'.